Constructed between 1955 & 1960 as a living memorial to the 375 men and women from Whanganui who lost their lives in the Second World War, the design of the Whanganui War Memorial Centre (WWMC) resulted from a national competition, organised by the New Zealand Institute of Architects in liaison with the Council, which attracted 42 entrants. The winners were Newman, Smith and Greenhough, New Zealand graduate architects who were based in London at the time.
Originally known as the Whanganui War Memorial Hall, the WWMC is now considered to be one of the finest examples of New Zealand modernist architecture, rating in the top 1,000 modernist buildings in the world. In 1961 the building design was awarded a Gold Medal from the New Zealand Institute of Architects and received a 25 year award from the Institute in 1997. The design, based on modernist concepts, has had a major influence on architectural development in New Zealand and is recognised in architectural and conservation circles, being registered as a Category 1 Historic Building (registration number 7442). More information on this historic place can be found in the New Zealand Historic Places Trust Register entry.
The fallen are remembered in the Book of Remembrance and sits on a podium of Swedish granite in front of the beautiful stained glass window which was commissioned in 2003 and is based on Laurence Byron's 'Poem for the Fallen'. Above the book fly the flags of the Army, Navy and Air Force along with the New Zealand National Ensign.
The RSA Memorial Plaque was unveiled on ANZAC Day, 25 April 2012 as a permanent memorial to the Whanganui soldiers killed in World War 2. The project was led by RSA Member Jim Clarke and generously supported by Whanganui businesses – Local Architect Eddie Belchambers endorsed the design, material choice and site; he commended the RSA on its approach and detailed consideration to the project. Former Whanganui RSA secretary-manager Bill Campbell refurbished 44 crosses, naming the places where those on the plaques died. These crosses are displayed next to the memorial every Anzac Day period.
The Stained Glass Window design work was done by June Gillies of Levin. The stained glass itself was carved out by Olaf Wehr-Candler and his team in the Pukerua Bay studio. Local artists Carmen Simmonds, Jim Dennison and Dean Flavell collaborated in making the glass castings around the central column in the installation. The finished product features a simulated sunrise on one side, a clear space in the middle, and a sunset on the other side. Glass castings featuring Flanders poppies decorate the central column. The panels also include the Crests of the New Zealand Armed Forces and the United Nations, together with the following extract, in both English and Maori, from Robert Laurence Binyon's 'Poems for the Fallen':
The WWMC also houses the Krupp Gun which is an antique artillery gun. A display board takes you through the history of the journey it took before arriving at the Memorial Centre.